Biology and Philosophy

, Volume 17, Issue 1, pp 33–53 | Cite as

Are Random Drift and Natural Selection Conceptually Distinct?

  • Roberta L. Millstein

Abstract

The latter half of thetwentieth century has been marked by debates inevolutionary biology over the relativesignificance of natural selection and randomdrift: the so-called ``neutralist/selectionist''debates. Yet John Beatty has argued that it isdifficult, if not impossible, to distinguishthe concept of random drift from the concept ofnatural selection, a claim that has beenaccepted by many philosophers of biology. Ifthis claim is correct, then theneutralist/selectionist debates seem at bestfutile, and at worst, meaningless. I reexaminethe issues that Beatty raises, and argue thatrandom drift and natural selection, conceivedas processes, can be distinguished from one another.

Beatty Brandon Carson causal relevance chance conceptual distinction discriminate sampling evolution Hodge indiscriminate sampling natural selection neutralism outcome probability process random drift selectionism 

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References

  1. Beatty, J.: 1984, 'Chance and Natural Selection', Philosophy of Science 51, 183-211.Google Scholar
  2. Beatty, J.: 1987, 'Natural Selection and the Null Hypothesis', in J. Dupré (ed.), The Latest on the Best: Essays on Evolution and Optimality, MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, pp. 53-75.Google Scholar
  3. Beatty, J.: 1992, 'Random Drift', in E.F. Keller and E.A. Lloyd (eds), Keywords in Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, pp. 273-281.Google Scholar
  4. Brandon, R.: 1990, Adaptation and Environment, Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ.Google Scholar
  5. Brandon, R. and S. Carson: 1996, 'The Indeterministic Character of Evolutionary Theory: No 'No Hidden Variables' Proof But No Room for Determinism Either', Philosophy of Science 63, 315-337.Google Scholar
  6. Darwin, C.: [1859] 1964, On the Origin of Species: A Facsimile of the First Edition, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts.Google Scholar
  7. Dodson, E.O. and P. Dodson: 1985, Evolution: Process and Product, Prindle, Weber and Schmit, Boston.Google Scholar
  8. Endler, J.A.: 1986, Natural Selection in the Wild, Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ.Google Scholar
  9. Futuyma, D.J.: 1986, Evolutionary Biology, Sinauer Associates, Sunderland.Google Scholar
  10. Futuyma, D.J.: 1988, 'Sturm Und Drang and the Evolutionary Synthesis', Evolution 42, 217-226.Google Scholar
  11. Grant, B.R. and Grant, P.R.: 1989, Evolutionary Dynamics of a Natural Population: The Large Cactus Finch of the Galápagos, University of Chicago Press, Chicago.Google Scholar
  12. Graves, L., Horan, B.L. et al.: 1999, 'Is Indeterminism the Source of the Statistical Character of Evolutionary Theory?', Philosophy of Science 66, 140-157.Google Scholar
  13. Hodge, M.J.S.: 1983, 'The Development of Darwin's General Biological Theorizing', in D.S. Bendall (ed.), Evolution from Molecules to Men, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp. 43-62.Google Scholar
  14. Hodge, M.J.S.: 1987, 'Natural Selection as a Causal, Empirical, and Probabilistic Theory', in L. Krüger (ed.), The Probabilistic Revolution, MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, pp. 233-270.Google Scholar
  15. Horan, B.L.: 1994, 'The Statistical Character of Evolutionary Theory', Philosophy of Science 61, 76-95.Google Scholar
  16. Mayr, E.: 1970, Populations, Species, and Evolution, The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts.Google Scholar
  17. Mayr, E.: 1983, 'How to Carry Out the Adaptationist Program?', American Naturalist 121, 324-334.Google Scholar
  18. Millstein, R.L.: 1996, 'Random Drift and the Omniscient Viewpoint', Philosophy of Science 63, S10-S18.Google Scholar
  19. Millstein, R.L.: 2000a, 'Chance and Macroevolution', Philosophy of Science 67, 603-624.Google Scholar
  20. Millstein, R.L.: 2000b (unpublished), 'Is the Evolutionary Process Deterministic or Indeterministic? An Argument for Agnosticism', Presented at the Philosophy of Science Association conference, November 2000 in Vancouver, Canada.Google Scholar
  21. Ridley, M.: 1996, Evolution, 2nd. Edition, Blackwell, Cambridge, MA.Google Scholar
  22. Rosenberg, A.: 1988, 'Is the Theory of Natural Selection a Statistical Theory?', Canadian Journal of Philosophy (Suppl). 14, 187-207.Google Scholar
  23. Rosenberg, A.: 1994, Instrumental Biology or the Disunity of Science, University of Chicago Press, Chicago.Google Scholar
  24. Shanahan, T.: 1992, 'Selection, Drift, and the Aims of Evolutionary Theory', in P. Griffiths (ed.), Trees of Life: Essays in Philosophy of Biology, Kluwer, Dordrecht, pp. 131-161.Google Scholar
  25. Sober, E.: 1984, The Nature of Selection, MIT Press, Cambridge, MA.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • Roberta L. Millstein
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyCalifornia State University, HaywardHaywardU.S.A.

Personalised recommendations